Monday, September 25, 2006

U.N: much more than meets the eye


Every year at around this time, the air waves are filled with U.N malcontents arguing for the abandonment of the U.N. These folks argue that the U.N. is ineffective (Rwanda, Darfur, Oil for Food are the typical examples given), does not serve U.S. interest and therefore, America should abandon the organization.

Having had the opportunity to live in the third world and America, I have had the wonderful opportunity to see the U.N. in action. In America, the emphasis is on the political side of the organization: the secretary general, Security Council, and the general assembly. In America, the U.N does not necessarily have a significant influence; in our day-to-day lives. However, in the third world, the U.N. plays a much more pronounced role. May it be UNHCR taking care of Somali refugees, UNAIDS building an AIDS clinic, UN – HABITAT building permanent homes in a slum, the UNEP cleaning a polluted river or the WHO helping nations develop responses to SARS or BIRD FLU.

It is quite unfortunate that Americans do not get to see this more noble side of the U.N. Americans need to realize that there is much more to the U.N. than meets the eye. The U.N. may have its political side, but there is a more practical and noble side to the U.N. and we need to consider this substantive side before we decide to abandon the organization.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Kenyan Bureaucrats, how do they do it

Kenya's political system is designed in such a way that the president has the power to expand and contract his govenrment at a whim, either to fulfill electoral promises, or balance tribal equations. Opposition leaders yelp about bloated government and promise to streamline ministries once in power, but that never happens, a new ministry here, a new ministry there, portfolios are handed out like christmas candy.

Looking at the situation from the political perspective, it all looks so easy: president (during 1pm KBC news broadcast) announces changes to cabinet, creates ministry, appoints a minister (or two), a couple of assistant ministers, adds a Permanent secretary and voila, a new ministry is born.

What happens at the bureaucratic level? How does the new ministry begin to operate? does it have a formal structure? Does it have a staff? does it have a budget (especially if created mid fiscal year)? It is said that people like to eat sausage, but not watch it being made. I am not one of these "people" can anyone please clarify these issues for me. How the hell do the do it??????

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Kazakhstan V. Ali G.

According to the daily mail, Ali G has caused a "diplomatic row". The story goes that the leader of Kazakhstan is unhappy over Sacha Baron Cohen's (Ali G) fictional Kazakh character "Borat". So pissed off that Mr. Cohen shall be the topic of discussion in upcoming bilateral talks between Preident Bush and President Nursultan Nazarbayev. The Kazakh government has also gone on a PR blitz to undo negative stereotypes about Kazakhstan (just saw an advert on the BBC).

It is quite possible that the Kazkhs governments overreaction will only serve to publicize the very character they're trying to defeat. If it was not for the news that Ali G will be on the presidets' agenda, I would not have known that their is a movie based on the "Borat" character: Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan. Early reviews of which are quite positive.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Lap Dances to stay

Yesterday was election day in Arizona and 8 other states. The main focus of the elections was obviously the primaries, however, in the City of Scottsdale, a very interesting measure was on the ballot: the passage Proposition 401 would have mandated a buffer zone between client and dancer in Scottsdale strip clubs. Effectively banning lap dances. Well the good people of Scottsdale rejected the measure. This whole episode (Scottsdale city council v. Jenna Jamison) will probably do a great deal for Scottsdale strip clubs. Seriously, in trying to destroy the strip club business, the city council provided constant media attention to scottsdale clubs and probably guaranteed their survival.

In other local election news, the election period begins in earnest. AZ doesn't have many interesting/close races. According to the electoral prognosticators at Cook Political Report and Rothenberg Political Report, there is only one really competitive seat (House seat AZ8), and a couple of leaners (AZ5 - my district - and AZ1). The senate seat is quite interesting as the duelling behemoths [Jim Pederson (D) and Jon Kyl (R) ]try to out do each other on TV. The Governors race seems to be incumbent Janet "only Janet in ads" Napolitano's to lose, facing conservative Len Munsil.

Though not many seats are attracting much national attention, it shall be a very interesting two months, as the two parties try to out do each other. Especially watching - as I shall - from behind the scenes.

Monday, September 11, 2006

DEM Takeover???

Over the last couple of months the political world has been abuzz with predictions of a democratic takeover of congress - bold prognostucators see the house and senate falling, while other believe a house takeover is more likely. It is quite interesting that the republicans have been actively encouraging these doomsday scenarios, recalling the 1994 collapse of the democrats 50 odd year control of the house. However, the last two weeks have seen a resurgence of the Republicans and a collective strategy to take advantage of the 9/11 anniversary. Craig Crawford provides a very interesting take on the Grand Old Possums